Last month, the Board of Education accepted a very generous gift. The New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association is donating a $117,000 playground to Long Lots Elementary School.
As “06880” reported, the firefighters are paying forward — to communities struck by Hurricane Sandy, and near Newtown — the kindness they were shown after in New Jersey after the storm. Seven years earlier, following Hurricane Katrina, the same firefighters had built playgrounds along the Gulf Coast.
Westport was chosen by relatives of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Dylan Hockley, because of a family connection here.
Westport firefighters and Public Works, Gault Energy, Kowalsky Brothers and AJ Penna Construction are all donating time, labor and materials to prepare the site for the new playground. Sunrise Rotary is contributing funds.
The groundbreaking on June 7 will be a community event. Jake Hockley — Dylan’s brother — will be the “foreman,” and cut a ceremonial ribbon. 26 butterflies — one for every student and educator killed in Newtown — will be released into the air.
In addition to being beautiful, the butterflies symbolize the Butterfly Effect: Something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings can cause change halfway around the world. Dylan’s parents, Nicole and Ian, call Dylan their butterfly. He — and the 25 others who died — can be a catalyst for change, they say.
But the effort does not end there.
The Long Lots PTA has created “Butterfly Effect” t-shirts (left and below) and car magnets (above). Part of the money raised will go to Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play. That’s the umbrella organization coordinating the construction of 26 playgrounds in the tri-state area, of which Long Lots is one.
The rest will go to Dylan’s Wings of Change, a memorial fund created in his memory to provide support for children — like him — with autism, and other special needs.
They’re also selling Sandy Ground bracelets ($5, at Elvira’s, Christie’s Country Store and Wishlist).
Long Lots — and Westport — received a wonderful gift. The New Jersey firefighters and Hockley family say they’re just paying it forward.
Now we’ve got a chance to do the same.
(T-shirts for $10, and “Butterfly Effect” magnets for $5, are for sale at Christie’s Country Store on Saturday, May 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m, and at a table near the Westport Y at the Memorial Day parade. Requests can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d just like to donate to the cause, send a check payable to “Long Lots PTA” to Lauren Goodman, Long Lots Elementary School, 13 Hyde Lane, Westport, CT 06880).